Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Alex is one of the most powerful brujas alive, but she hates magic and is afraid of her powers. In a misguided attempt to give up her magic, she ends up exiling her entire family to Los Lagos, a limbo world. With brujo Nova as her guide, Alex travels to Los Lagos to save her family and come to terms with her powers. The strongest elements of Labyrinth Lost were definitely the world building and the wonderful diversity of its characters. Nearly the entire cast of characters are people of color, and Mexican-American culture is represented not only with the characters, but within the bruja magic system as well. Our main character is also bisexual, and I loved seeing that, especially since it came across so naturally. That being said, for all of the positives I did have some pretty serious problems with Labyrinth Lost. Mainly, the writing feels weak and disjointed a lot of the time, and the author’s repeated use of nonsensical yet offensive phrases like “bipolar eyes” made the reading experience far from immersive. Nearly every other character in this book overshadows Alex, so by the end I still didn’t really know her voice, or feel connected to her as the protagonist. This is the first book in a series, but unless the writing improves I don’t think I’ll continue on. As much as I enjoyed the story, the actual story telling was too lacking for me to really enjoy it.
I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free & honest review.
Set in 1990s Hawaii, Rani Patel in Full Effect was one of the most unique stories I’ve come across. Rani raps with her local crew as MC Sutra, and uses her raps to deal with what’s going on in her life – her father’s affair, the growing distance between Rani and her mother, and the years of sexual assault she suffered through. Rani has such a distinctive, powerful voice, and I loved reading about a female MC who looks up to Queen Latifah and Salt-N-Pepa. This book is Own Voices, and it really explores the expectations placed upon Indian women, especially in Rani’s Gujarati family. As much as I loved the different moving parts of this book, somehow it just didn’t quite work for me as a whole as much as I’d hoped it would. I think part of why I didn’t feel immersed in the story was because rap slang, Hawaiian words, and Gujarati phrases were used with little context or translation, so I was constantly referring to the glossary, even though many words weren’t even in the glossary. I know that Rani is 16, but the romantic subplot really diverted a lot of attention away from the family story and rushed Rani’s own personal growth instead of seeing it progress throughout the novel. I did enjoy this story, and especially Rani as a character, and loved that this book provided some much-needed representation of Hawaiian and Indian cultures, neither of which gets much attention in YA. Books are getting adapted into movies and TV shows left and right these days, but Rani Patel in Full Effect would make an amazing film. That has nothing to do with the merits of the novel, but I still wanted to share that opinion. I’d definitely recommend checking this book out, because Rani’s story and lines will definitely impress.
I received an ARC from the publisher at BEA in exchange for a free & honest review.